COUNCIL BLUFFS — The curtain has come down for good on First Night, the annual year-end celebration of local artists in Council Bluffs.
Mayor Matt Walsh said falling attendance led to the decision.
“Every year, it was getting less and less attended,” he said.
Walsh said he asked event volunteers whether First Night should continue, and “to a person, nobody said it should.”
First Night began in Council Bluffs on Dec. 31, 2007, as an alcohol-free, family-friendly way to celebrate the new year while showcasing area artists working in music, art, dance, comedy and magic.
The acts were performed in a dozen or so venues downtown, concluding with fireworks at midnight. Changes over the years included moving the fireworks show to an earlier hour for families. Last year, so that people wouldn’t have to venture into the cold to move from venue to venue, organizers placed many acts at the Mid-America Center. That didn’t help attendance, Walsh said.
Crowds of up to 3,000 converged early on, but he estimated as few as 500 showed up last year. It makes more sense to focus on other citywide events, Walsh said. He did not specify what those events might be.
The event was funded by donations and admittance fees. The city’s only costs came from employees’ in-kind service in putting the show together.
Geoff Hubbard, the city’s recreation superintendent who helped oversee the event in recent years, agreed with Walsh’s decision.
“I think it worked for a while, but I think it has run its course,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard said he believed attendance hit its high point in 2010 and 2011 with 2,500 or so attending.
Most who attended last year went to the Mid-America Center, avoiding the downtown venues, Hubbard said. A main purpose of First Night, an international event, is to showcase local talent in a downtown area, he said.